Back to Incidents page Devonport Dockyard c1980
Crane Incident
80 Visits

"I remember this very well. I was living onboard at the time and was not planning on going ashore that night. I had taken over as part of the on watch party from one of the married men so he could go home and was hoping for a quite night. We were moored in what was known as frigate corner in the top end of the yard opposite St Budeaux with HMS Minerva inboard and one of the island class patrol ships (possibly HMS Guernsey) moored outboard of us. During the night a real gale started to blow and I remember being called from my pit to re-secure HMS Guernsey as she had ripped one of our deck cleats out and was at risk of breaking loose. Having sorted this problem out I returned to my pit only to be dragged out again as one of the dockside cranes had been blown over in the high winds and the jib had landed across HMS Minerva’s hanger causing damage to her Seacat launcher and buckling the port side of the hanger. The end of the jib had smashed into our Whaler Seaboat which was now hanging in two parts from the davits and then took out one of the once-only suit storage holders that was located under the davits. The on watch party were turned to check for any injuries, which thankfully there weren’t and then started to sort out the damage as best we could. Once it was established that neither ship was in any danger, it was decided to leave the clear up until daylight and so we all returned to our pits.

 As there was now no working crane in the area we could not get the jib lifted off where we were and so it was decided to move us to another berth. A load of dockyard workers turned up and started to cut the jib into sections after we had lashed it to any strong points we could. Once this was completed we were moved by tugs round to another berth but as we started to turn the corner we started to list badly and so the last part of the jib was cut lose and dropped into the Tamar.

 It was later found out that the crane had a defect with its brake mechanism which had locked thus stopping the jib and cab moving with the wind. Once it had locked, the cab acted as a sail taking the full force of the wind on the side which caused it to topple over. Thankfully HMS Minerva took most of the weight of the jib and with her steel superstructure stood up to the blow a lot better than we would have. All in all - a very eventful night."

Dave Rowlands  AB(R) 1979 – 1982.


"Although I never served aboard Ambuscade, I do remember an incident in about 1980/81 that may be of interest to your members.  As a young stoker, I was on my way to bed in Drake having just been relieved at 0400 as Keyboard sentry in Defiance.
It was blowing a gale and as I was nearing North Barrack gate, heard a tremendous crash, sufficiently loud to warrant investigation. Walking back 20 yards I noticed a dockyard crane had toppled onto both Ambuscade and Minerva berthed alongside. Fortunately as the weather was so bad, the QM & Bosuns Mate were sheltering in the hanger so I am not aware of any casualties.
I am no longer quite so young, but do remember the incident quite vividly. Still in and serving as a Chief Stoker on submarines
 Ian Atkinson 

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